“First, we have nothing to do with that complaint against the Vice President and senators. That’s basically the complaint of Bikoy,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said, referring to the hooded figure in the documentary format video titled “Ang Totoong Narcolist.”
Joven Cagande
Palace denies hand in sedition complaint
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - July 20, 2019 - 12:00am

Let justice take its course – PNP

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday washed its hands of the filing of sedition and other criminal charges against Vice President Leni Robredo and dozens of prominent opposition figures and Roman Catholic clergy, in connection with the production and release of a video linking President Duterte and his family to the illegal drug trade.

“First, we have nothing to do with that complaint against the Vice President and senators. That’s basically the complaint of Bikoy,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said, referring to the hooded figure in the documentary format video titled “Ang Totoong Narcolist.”

“We do not know anything about it. We have nothing to do with it and we will just let the law take its course,” Panelo added. “We don’t have anything to do with it. How can that be political harassment? It’s between Bikoy and them.”

After the release on YouTube of the six-part video, a man identified as Peter Joemel Advincula surfaced and claimed he was Bikoy.

Advincula would later accuse Robredo and other opposition figures of being behind the production and release of the video supposedly to smear the reputation of the Duterte administration and raise the chances of opposition senatorial candidates in the May elections.

Advincula was both a respondent and witness in the complaint filed with the Department of Justice (DOJ) by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG).

Panelo explained the Palace had initially wanted to determine from Advincula himself the veracity of his original claim that Duterte and his family were involved in the drug trade. “Our position before was that he has to prove himself whether he was telling the truth or not,” Panelo said.

Robredo and the other respondents, including arch-Duterte critic former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, should take the filing of the charges as an opportunity to defend themselves, according to the spokesman.

“The respondents, whoever they are, should welcome that so they can also defend themselves,” he said.  

How the case will unfold, Panelo said, will depend on how Advincula can back up his allegations. “That will require proof of communications between him and those he referred to as his co-conspirators. That will also require testimonial evidence,” he said.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, in a TV interview, also denied any Palace role in the filing of the complaint.

“Definitely, the Palace has nothing to do with it, the executive branch, this is the decision of the Philippine National Police and we have nothing to do with it,” Andanar said.

Palace hands full

He said the Palace’s hands are full as there are many priority concerns such as corruption needing greater attention.

“We have so much work to do; the President is busy with many things, he is fighting corruption left and right,” Andanar said.

He noted the President’s summoning 40 to 50 Bureau of Customs personnel to answer allegations of corruption. He said the BOC personnel would be made to face the ombudsman.

Aside from Robredo, also named in the complaint filed with the DOJ on Thursday were Sens. Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros, and former senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV.

The charges also include inciting to sedition, cyber libel, libel, estafa and harboring a criminal/obstruction of justice.

Also named respondents were Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines vice president Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, former CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, retired Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr., De La Salle University president Bro. Armin Luistro, Ateneo de Manila professor and Jesuit priest Albert Alejo and “running priest” Robert Reyes.

“Otso Diretso” senatorial candidates former Magdalo representative Gary Alejano, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, civic leader Samira Gutoc and former Quezon congressman Erin Tañada III were also named respondents. 

Former senator Mar Roxas was the only Otso Diretso senatorial candidate not included in the complaint.

Respondents also include Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) incumbent president Egon Cayosa and former president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, as well as former Supreme Court (SC) spokesman and member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) Theodore Te. Also in the list is former senior superintendent Eduardo Acierto.

After the CIDG’s filing of the cases, PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde said it’s now time to “let justice to take its course.”

Albayalde said the complaint against the opposition leaders is “already in the hands of the court.” The charges are still being readied for preliminary investigation by the DOJ.

P/Lt. Col. Kimberly Molitas said the police force “leaves it to the appreciation of the court.”

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, assured Robredo and the others that his investigators would resolve the complaint “on the basis of the evidence presented and no other.”

The DOJ has formed a special panel of prosecutors led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas and Assistant State Prosecutors Michael Humarang and Gino Paolo Santiago.

Guevarra also emphasized that the issue on the “Vice President’s removability from office only by impeachment has no bearing on the issue of possible criminal liability.”

He also scoffed at Trillanes’ describing the filing of the complaint against them as “political persecution and harassment” perpetrated by the administration. “When these things happen, the administration is trying to cover up something, they want to distract the attention of the people,” Trillanes earlier said.

“I have said this before and I will say it again: the DOJ is not a weapon for oppression or persecution. We shall go only by the evidence presented before us and we don’t care who gets indicted and who goes scot-free. But once probable cause is determined and a criminal case is filed in court, the DOJ will exert the full force of the law to secure a conviction,” Guevarra said in reaction to Trillanes’ accusation. – With Romina Cabrera, Evelyn Macairan

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